The Lord returns to Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:1-5)
Zechariah is shown a third vision, this time of a man with a measuring line. The man tells Zechariah that he is off to measure the width and length of Jerusalem so that it may be rebuilt to its original dimensions. Suddenly, Zechariah’s angelic interpreter is met by another angel, who reveals that the restored city will be so unimaginably full of people that there will be no walls to mark the city limits. Instead, God will inhabit the entire city (read: not just the temple!) and his presence will be a wall of fire around Jerusalem as its eternal security.
When reading biblical prophecies that center around Jerusalem, such as this one, it is important to recognize and recall the Jewish perception of the holy city. Israel envisioned Jerusalem as God’s eternal seat of power, where Jews would live in safety and security and their Messiah would rule over the nations of the world. Thus, Israel’s identity as a nation was intrinsically tied to the physical city of Jerusalem. As long as Jerusalem lay in ruins and its inhabitants lived in exile outside of its walls, Israel’s purpose as a nation, as they understood it, could not be fulfilled. This is why the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile was such a monumental blow to Israel’s national identity, and why the returning exiles were in such a hurry to rebuild the city to its original parameters.
Prophetic visions of the New Jerusalem, however, depict a city that is not simply an eternal home for ethnic Israelites, but a blessing and a source of life and vitality to the Gentile nations of the world. This makes sense; Israel’s purpose was not to horde God’s blessings for themselves behind city walls. Rather, their purpose was to live in such a way that other nations would be brought into the fold of God through their testimony (Genesis 12:2-3). More than that, the prophets indicate that Israel’s rebuilding of Jerusalem is not a prerequisite for God’s purposes to be met: In the prophetic visions of the New Jerusalem, it is God himself who takes the initiative and restores the broken city to state of prosperity that is beyond human comprehension or ability (Jeremiah 30:18; 33:6-16; Isaiah 44:24-28; Revelation 21:9-22). God’s election and restoration of Israel was never the end of the story; it was a means to a greater end that would see people of every nation, not just Israel, restored to proper standing under the lordship of God.
With that in mind, let’s keep reading.
“They will be my people” (Zechariah 2:6-13)
Zechariah’s vision continues: “Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the LORD!” (2:6). God issues an urgent call for his exiled people to return to Jerusalem to escape the judgment that is about to befall their former oppressors. But the words of judgment upon the nations who have oppressed Israel are paralleled by promises of divine restoration. God declares to Zechariah that he will come and reclaim the city of Jerusalem, and in that day “many nations shall join themselves to the LORD . . . and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst” (2:11).
I want to key in on verse 11 for a moment, because it is extremely important. The phrase “They shall be my people” appears all throughout the Old Testament as a reminder of God’s original promise to bind himself to Israel in a covenant relationship (Genesis 17:7; c.f. Exodus 6:7; Ezekiel 36:28; Jeremiah 31:33). But the Jews who heard or read Zechariah’s prophecy would have recognized immediately that this distinctly covenantal language is being applied to the Gentiles. This furthers the idea of verses 2:1-5: God’s intention is to be the Lord of one holy nation, composed of both Jews (those whom he elected) and the Gentiles (who have inherited his covenant promises).
Summary of Zechariah 2
Israel’s perception of God’s restoration promises was small and shortsighted. Through Zechariah, God urged his people to expand their view of Jerusalem’s role in his plan for the world. The end goal was not for it to be rebuilt as a refuge for ethnic Israelites; God’s plan for Jerusalem was that it would bear the name and presence of God himself and be a beacon of hope and salvation for both Jews and Gentiles alike (see: Revelation 21).